John Olivares Espinoza

Wife and Child Leave Mr. Walton Spanish Teacher

I return home from teaching to a front door left ajar.

                                         The silence in the house amplifies

The heartbeat from our clock hanging on the wall.

      I find a note on my little girl’s bed

                        Lying in the hollow of her body’s impression.

I do not punch the wall this time,

                   But that doesn’t make up for anything.


           I eat some dates left on the kitchen counter

 After my wife blended a date shake this morning.

     I watch a few minutes of Brady Bunch and Telemundo

                  Before weeping into my forearms until dusk.


I think if I kill myself

                                    I’ll sink non-stop to hell—

            But a freshman Spanish class is hell

For a bald, white male

                                    Tall as a doorway,

            Pale as a glass of milk.

                        The Mexican students mock my accent,

Challenge my knowledge of their culture

    With their quizzes on pop stars and folklore,

          Though they’ve never watched a Cantiflas film.

And he was greater than Charlie Chaplin.


                                    My father taught me to tie

A noose to anchor our boat on the deck at a small lake in Ohio.

            I remember his hands—knuckles like ball bearings

    Under his skin, his fingers fly paper-yellow from tobacco.

Thick nails like teeth on his fingertips.  No matter his quick temper,

                                                We would have not abandoned him.


            In a Super 8 motel room across the desert

                        She is probably lying next to my wife,

My little one confused, biting

               Into the ear of her pillow, reciting

An Our Father in Spanish.


Before I swing like broken legs on a piñata above the garage floor,

                             I search her drawers for mementos.

I find two bobby pins, a busted rubber band,

     And a severed blond head of a Barbie doll

                                    Which I stick inside my front pocket.

        I search the garage closet for the stepping

                                                                     Stool with uneven legs.

Death smells of rags soaked in acetone and dry lawn mower grass.

                             ¡Adiós pinche mundo!


            I place two dates in my mouth

                            To take with me something sweet.